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Nets need Spencer’s ‘D’... and the return of their ‘energy guys’

New York Knicks v Brooklyn Nets Photo by Al Bello/Getty Images

On the surface, this is Spencer Dinwiddie’s time. All-Star Skills Challenge champ, expectant father, an articulate spokesman for his team and his values.

Then there’s his defense of late.

As Fred Kerber writes and as Kenny Atkinson notes, not so good.

Dinwiddie, averaging 13.5 points and 6.7 assists, is not the Nets’ top scoring option but his numbers recently reflect Atkinson’s concern. Dinwiddie has been outscored by the opposing starting point guard in each of the past seven games, all losses. During that streak, which is part of the Nets’ current eight-game losing streak, Dinwiddie has been outscored 156-95, or 22.3 points per to 13.5. His scoring is in line, but the yield is not.

He’s got to pick it up, he’s got to do it on both ends,” Atkinson said Saturday. “It’s a heckuva challenge. He’s facing top guys. We think Spencer is a really good defender but he’s just got to be more consistent.

“I think he has his games but unfortunately at that position you can’t take the night off. You take a night off, some guy will score 30 on you,” Atkinson said. “It’s just that simple. So we need more defensive grit, defensive activity from him so we’ve got to push him there.”

Meanwhile, the Nets expect two of their better defenders, Rondae Hollis-Jefferson and Caris LeVert, back on Monday vs. the tanking Bulls, the first of three match-ups in the Nets last 22 games.

Hollis-Jefferson won’t start, Greg Logan writes, and the minutes of both players will be limited, but the important thing is the Nets will be whole again, minus Jeremy Lin, of course. (In the past two years, the Nets have been whole — completely healthy — twice in the last two years, March 2 of last season and Opening Night this season.)

“Being whole is so key,” Atkinson said following Saturday’s practice. “That’s what’s going to get us moving back in the right direction.”

RHJ has been absent for 11 games, during which the Nets have lost all but one. He’s excited about his return from a bad groin strain. He says his priority is rebounding and he said he’s been researching the technique of Dennis Rodman, rebounder extraordinaire.

“We just saw a stat that Dennis Rodman had 100-plus 20-rebound games. That’s like 100-plus more than Shaquille O’Neal,” Hollis-Jefferson said after practice Saturday. “So I’m hunting rebounds now.”

“He was 6-7-ish, taking rebounds,” RHJ continued. “Amazing. So I’m hunting rebounds,” As Kerber reports, he then “emitted the sound of a barking bloodhound.”

LeVert was less effusive but said he hopes he can add to the team’s defense.

“Hopefully, I come in and make an impact, especially on the defensive side of the ball, making hustle plays, rebounding and then taking control of the group,” LeVert said. “I just want to play my game, make the right plays, play the right defense and try to make the group better . . . pick up the defensive intensity and make the other team feel us out there.”

As anyone who’s followed the Nets during their losing streak, any improvement in either defense or rebounding would be greatly appreciated.